Australian companies ought to be doing more to retain women in technical roles post thirty-five years of age.
Setec already boasts a diversity in background, age and gender, recognising its crucial link to greater innovation and more successful products. With a history of a predominantly female base in the production team, Setec has in recent years employed three female engineers in its R&D department.
CEO Louise Bayliss believes retention of female engineers lies primarily within the culture of the company. ‘Ensure an acceptance of females in high-end tech roles. Make sure male managers understand the additional complexities of being a woman in a male-dominated role. We incorporate this through a flexibility in our approach with our people, and treating all staff with respect and fairness,’ Louise says.
Employee opportunities such as professional development, EAPs, and avenues for promotion are common in many companies and go a long way to keeping staff engaged and committed. But to increase the retention of females in technical roles, there has to be an additional element, specific to their own needs.
Louise adds, ‘I believe there has to be a path for female engineers to return after having children. We offer flexible work arrangements to our staff, but the challenge lies in providing a welcoming and nurturing department, post-maternity leave, where women feel supported, trusted and valued to fight against the old generational norms.’
Additionally, companies could provide a formal mentorship program for their female technical staff. Louise notes, ‘There aren’t enough role models for women under 35. A mentorship program for our female engineers could provide this core component. Whether those mentors exist external to the company or within it depends on the business itself and its staffing structures.’
Louise continues, ‘A role model gives confidence for these women for their future. It shows the possibilities, as well as someone to look up to, a sounding board. And for the mentor, this type of structured program provides a platform to tell their own story, a way to encourage others.’